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School board, city set course in annual joint meeting

Youth programs and sustainability were the main topics of discussion during the annual joint meeting between the city council and the Claremont Board of Education on Monday, February 1.

The atmosphere in the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center’s boardroom was easygoing, as city official heard updates on the Youth Activity Center and green endeavors from the city and the school board. The school board also took the opportunity to introduce the district’s new Parent Involvement Liaison.

School Board Superintendent Jim Elsasser introduced Rosa Leong, whose job includes engaging with Claremont families to become more involved in school activities, supporting workshops that help parents understand school services and providing interpretation and translation services. She previously worked for nine years as the bilingual community assistant with the Rowland Unified School District in Rowland Heights.

“I look forward to working with all of our Claremont families and their students,” Ms. Leong said. “Parent involvement and parent engagement is a key component to students’ success, and so I look forward to working with all the students and Claremont families.”

Councilmember Joe Lyons heaped praise on Ms. Leong and her new job.

“I think this is one of the characteristics of the Claremont way of doing things,” Mr. Lyons said. “Engaging parents and our community in activities that are for the betterment of either segment and the entire community.”

Katie Distelrath, Claremont youth program supervisor, was also on hand to give the board members and city council members an update on the YAC as well as the Teen Activity Center.

Ms. Distelrath presented staff with a report on what the YAC and TAC have done in the past year, including repainting the YAC room and a focus on job and college preparation. Free tutoring for El Roble Intermediate students will also be available at the YAC from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., and on Wednesdays from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. in the library, according to Ms. Distelrath.

“Ultimately, programs like these benefit our youth and our families beyond measure,” she said.

Ms. Distelrath was also proud to announce the Teen CERT program, a collaboration with the Claremont Police Department that saw 18 students complete the FEMA-certified, 21-hour Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. The program aims to prepare students and train them in the event of a disaster during school hours, with more training for faculty and staff coming in the future.

Other notable events facilitated by the YAC and TAC in the past year includes feeding the homeless, trips to the Griffith Observatory and a hiking to the Hollywood sign.

“Without the partnership and support of the district and city, all of these amazing programs and opportunities for our youth would not be possible,” Ms. Distelrath said, while holding back tears.

The council and board members praised Ms. Distelrath and the programs she spearheaded during discussion, highlighting the importance of such undertakings.

“I’ve been very impressed by the new program of helping students applying to get into college,” Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali said. “I think that is one of the most impressive things, to me at least, that students can be helped, especially if they don’t have the means or the ways to be able to apply to get into college. So thank you for that.”

Mayor Corey Calaycay praised the Teen Committee, which offers local teenagers the opportunity to get involved in the city government progress. He noted many city leaders who grew up in Claremont—including Ms. Distelrath and Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor—who were part of similar programs when they were younger.

Last on the agenda was a joint sustainability report by Principal Planner Chris Veirs, representing the city, and Assistant Superintendent Lisa Shoemaker, representing the school board.

Mr. Veirs described two competitions the city is heavily involved in. The Claremont Energy Challenge is the city’s campaign to reduce energy use and create sustainable programs over a two-year period to win the $5 million Georgetown Energy Prize. The CoolCalifornia Challenge is a state-wide competition where cities gain points by reducing energy usage, vehicle mileage and gas usage for a $150,000 prize and statewide bragging rights.

A forthcoming plan unveiled by Mr. Veirs includes converting streetlights in the city from high-pressure sodium light bulbs to more energy-efficient LED bulbs. Mr. Veirs intends to change out all 1,300 bulbs in the city. Southern California Edison (SCE) owns half of the lights, but the effort includes purchasing them and converting the bulbs to LED.

“The reduced costs pay for the purchase of the lights,” Mr. Veirs said.

Mr. Nasiali questioned Mr. Veirs on why the city needs to purchase the streetlights from SCE for the LED conversion.

“SCE is not all that interested in saving energy,” Mr. Veirs replied, adding that many cities are in the middle of the same purchase in order to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and reduce costs.

Mr. Veirs also mentioned the city has consistently met the state’s drought restrictions, decreasing water use by 39.5 percent in December 2015. He noted re-landscaping City Hall and Shelton Park and removing turf on Indian Hill medians as other city accomplishments toward sustainability.

Ms. Shoemaker highlighted a December 17 agreement with PFMG Solar to install solar canopies at all district locations. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, and will provide some credit toward the Claremont Energy Challenge, according to Ms. Shoemaker.

The school board is also using funds from Proposition 39, also known as the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, for projects throughout the city that improve energy efficiency.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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